Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Fever

Boy the students have it. I have it. They're cranky. I'm getting cranky from the way they're acting. 1100 vs. 100 for the next couple weeks makes a bad ratio when the 1100 seem ready to take over like Santa Anna at the Alamo. I'm feeling like I'm being run over on a daily basis. Can't wait for FRIDAY tomorrow. I bet they'll be restless as roaches on a warming fry pan.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

What was the FUNNIEST part of your journey?

OK, so I've flown into NYC with plans. Things I want to see and do -- and it's raining cats and dogs. A real frog-strangler of a rain. What the heck is Plan B? What IS plan B? WHAT is plan B? Well I went to the Museum of Natural history which I had not visited since 5th grade field trip. Guess what? That was plan B for most of NYC. It was shoulder-to-shoulder with people. It was OK, but I finally made my way to JFK airport and was sitting down reading. I'm just sitting there when this WEIRD lady comes over to me and says, "I've prayed about it. I asked God who I should talk to to, and I decided it was you." Now, I don't know about you, but THIS is not a good way for a conversation to start! So she asked me, "I missed my flight to Dublin. I'm wondering if you know how to get from Shannon to Dublin?" Well, in actuality, nerdy-girl here HAS thought out how to get from Shannon to Dublin. I pull out the bus schedule and explain how we have to take a bus to Limerick, and then we can catch a train in Limerick for Dublin. So she has somehow asked the right person all the right questions and gotten the answers she needed. I'm not thinking I'm God's answer to her prayer or anything, but it did work out for her. So....I tell her, "It's very possible for you to get to Dublin on your timeline, if you like just follow me. I'm going there."

Well it turns out she's a flight attendant for Delta. She's going to Dublin to hook-up with a friend that has backstage tickets for her to see Tina Turner in Dublin. That's cool. Well I get to my seat (16A) and she gets to go up to first class. Nice perk of working for the airline. I'm settling in to my seat in the sardine section when I see her come down the aisle. I wave to her and she give me the "come here" finger. So I get up and move toward her (that's real easy on a plane) and she says the flight attendants have one more first class seat left and since I'm her friend they're going to let me sit up there with her (Don't tell anyone.).

So I get the nice warm wash cloth to warm and clean my hands. I get my choice of dinners (I get the prime rib and shrimp scampi). I get the nice WIDE-BODIED chairs to go with my WIDE -BODIED body! I get the nice chair with the leg rests that allow you to actually lay back and get comfy. I get all this because I was nice. I have to tell you that after dinner I took some nice Xanex and took a nice snooze and woke up over Ireland. It was GREAT! In the generous spirit of the times, I offered a little sleep to my new friend. She and I both arrived in Shannon, Republic of Ireland well rested and ready to travel at 8AM Irish time.

How bazaar though to have a strange woman come up and make me Queen for a Day (flight). That was the most weird thing that happened on this trip, full of other synchronistic events. It's a testimonial to the fact that if you're nice, good things can happen to you. This was the most "funny" (unusual) thing that happened to me on this trip.

What was the WORST part of your trip?

Well, the night that I blew into Belfast and found my Hostel, there was a soccer team staying on the same floor as me. Very little sleep while the testosterone crowd stay up drinking all night and playing loud music and being boring, loud drunks.

I go downstairs and say I want to stay another night but not close to the soccer team. They put me in a different dorm. It's one pound more a night though, is that ok? Well it's one more pound a night it turns out, because it's "en suite." The bathroom is IN the dorm, you don't have to go down the hall. Shrug, OK. Then I'm showering and getting ready for bed, when the rest of the room come back from sightseeing. Ohhhhhhhh. It's a co-ed dorm! The OLD woman with NO BOOBS is in a dorm with GUYS and girls who are all young, strong, and very in-love. Take my word for it, they're in love! They're from the Basque region of Spain and so some speak English, and some don't. Their Spanish is SO accented, that I can't for the life of me understand them. I do understand that it's three couples and each couple is very, very good friends with one another! So what the hell?! I figure I'm there to sleep. They're in their bunk bed, and I'm in mine, and I just sleep. At least the dang soccer team wasn't close by anymore! So I slept. Next morning everyone is polite and everyone averts their eyes from everyone else. The guys don't watch me; I don't watch them in their skimpy, form-fitting, Lycra briefs that have no fly (not that I was looking). I'm hoping they weren't looking when I hoisted up my store-bought "girls" and put them on. We'll never know if I scared their youthful minds forever, since I'm not good at Castillion and won't read their blog, but I'm guessing I just might be the "funniest" thing that happened to them while they were on their vacation! Just a little stomach acid. That's all, just a little stomach acid when I realized it was a co-ed dorm.

What was the most EMOTIONAL part of your trip?

One of my goals was to see if I could find the grave of my mother's sister who died in 1935. Now I don't know about you, but I think finding a graveyard in a foreign country and finding the grave of someone in particular in that foreign country, from something like 70 years or so ago -- that sounds like spitting into the wind to me. An impossible task that can't possibly be done on a whirlwind trip. Well, I have to tell you. I found the town. I found the churchyard, I found the keeper, and I found the little grave of the little girl that would never grow up to be my aunt. It was a miracle. It was the hole-in-one, miracle that I didn't truly believe would be possible. Then when I got to the grave and the keeper left me alone with her, I lay down on top of the grave. I thought of the book "The Lovely Bones" and I talked to her. I just told her about her mom and dad and sister and how I was related to her, and that I had a daughter with children of her own now. I told her the story of her family and apologized that she didn't get to be a part of our lives for so long and that I was glad I found her. I lay there for a good 30 minutes and just chatted up a dead girl that died at age 6 when my mom was 11. She lay beside the stone with the large CLARKE on it in a churchyard that had acres and acres of graves from 1700's on, and the fates allowed me to find her that day despite the fact that everyone and everyone was closed for the Easter week. Laying there and being with her was really much more emotional than anything I expected. Yet, it was the right thing to do at that time. It was my connection to the innocent past. She died of a disease that we don't know today. She died of diphtheria. She died of something that started like a cold and cough, and ended with her windpipe swelling, and swelling until that point in time that she could breathe no longer and she suffocated. What a terrible death. Now days we're all immunized against diphtheria. Thank goodness! I don't know if there is a here-after or if the dead can hear us or if we can communicate with the past in any significant way, but it was really, really emotional for me to find that grave.

What was the very BEST part of your vacation?

The BEST part of the vacation was coming home. The second best was spending one night in a B & B in Newry. The lady there was SO nice. She picked me up in town, and offered me tea. I had a nice big, light, airy room with a door. I had to go down the hall for the bathroom, but I had all the hot water I could want and I showered $45 worth of hot water! I had a comfy bed with an electric blanket on it, and I was warm and cozy. After several days of hosteling, I loved the luxury of the B & B. Catherine was so nice. Because I didn't have more than cereal for breakfast, she made me a lunch to take on the train with me. How nice! I loved having the privacy and the civility of the B & B after the emotional time I'd experienced above. Catherine was just as surprised as I that I found the grave of Anna Freida McPherson 74 years after her burial. If I ever knew her first name I didn't remember it, and it so surprised me to discover her first name since it is a name that threads it way through the decades. There is a tiny part of Anna Freida McPherson in Joann and maybe even in Julianna. I don't know if Frieda knows that her legacy moves through four more generations or not. But I'm really happy I got to stay with Catherine and her nice B & B the night after I found Freida.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Relay for Life

I didn't get to do Relay last year. It's a HUGE thing with the school systems. Last year in the county, over $60,000 was raised in our teeny, tiny county. Last year I was luxuriating in some beach time, and I had the time off because I was recovering from the most nasty chemotherapy ever. I had some peach fuzz for hair. This year I'm doing much better in the hair department. It's about the length I wore it when I worked at Georgia Tech, so I don't look like a space alien to myself anymore.

The good thing about doing Relay for me is that I get to see people who are long time survivors. When you're getting treatment you're also seeing the sickest of the sick. And the sickest ones are often the terminal ones (not that we all aren't terminal -- none of us gets out of this life alive but some are clearly going faster than others of us and that who you see a lot of the time when you're in active treatment). So, anyway, it's good for me to talk to other people who are 16 and 25 year survivors. That makes me feel hopeful.

I'm really, really tired tonight. The first week back from spring break the kids are all very wound up, and the weather is breaking nice so we've all got spring fever finally. The next few weeks of school are going to be challenging -- for a whole variety of reasons. Achy and grouchy and tired now though. Looking forward to being grammy tomorrow with Miss Jewel. MUST do grocery shopping for Betty. I hear she is OUT of everything now. Time for a big haul at the grocery.

Maybe Jewel and I can grocery shop and then come home and nap afterward. We'll have to see how it goes.

Interesting how the students today who saw my pictures and heard the story of my trip to Ireland reacted. The idea of a hostel seems to totally be abhorent to my students. They'd only go somewhere first class or not at all. I'd rather go third class and get to go. I guess I'm a bit Bohemian in that respect...remnants of the flower child. European youth seem much more willing to embrace the idea of hosteling as an alternative to camping. Many American young people seem to think there's something just too weird about it -- that it's unsafe just because you're in close proximity to other people, especially other people from "strange" countries. Sounds like xenophobia to me, and a fear of anything somewhat different from American expectations.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Belfast Surprise

When I left Dublin and went to Belfast, I put my things away at the Hostel and then set out to go get some pub grub. When I started out for the pub, I came upon an "Orange Parade."

Go HERE to see the Orange Parade. It's supposed to be a practice for the biggest of big Orange Parade on July 12, the anniversary of a 300 year old battle. It appears they do need a tad more practice. But it was exciting to see the event, even though it's hard for us American's to understand the political/religious issues behind these.

I do have to say that there was one scary moment where I thought a riot was going to break out, and you could fairly smell the testesterone and tension in the air. People there said I was in a safe place, others I asked later told me I was a nut case for hanging around that area at all.

So exciting moment to capture, by total accident that I was there and glad my camera had the ability to handle movies as well as photos.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In the USA

I'm sleeping in my bed tonight! I've been up about 40 hours now, and in the last 10 it's become over abundant that I need a shower. I just spent about 30 minutes in the shower and I've had a protine drink and I'm catching up on my favorite shows that played while I was gone, and will soon close my eyes, hopefully, for a long time. Realistically, I'm wound pretty tight right now, but I really need to catch up some, and I need to do a hellovalot of laundry! It was good to fly into the USA today. It's GREAT to lay on MY bed tonight! Will write more after some of my neurons have gotten a little more melatonin from sleep. Adventures. Lots of adventures.

Friday, April 17, 2009


No, I'm not smart enough to make one up. But my butt is in Limerick, Ireland. I just had a couple of amazing days. Yesterday I went to Newry to see if I could find the grave of my mom's sister who died in 1935. Amazingly I did. It was very special, especially since I thought it was a task that would be like finding hen's teeth. It was easy as pie, but I'll have to write about it later as I'm at an internet cafe right now and the clock is running.

I went to Brigid's Well in Kildare today. It was so lovely with all the spring flowers blooming and special flowers put out on account of the Easter holiday. It's lovely, but COLD. It's cold like Atlanta in Febuary here.

Sat on a train most of the day today, except for the time in Kildare. I'm going to a pub (don't worry, my liver won't let me drink) and have some pub grub and then I'm going to check in REALLY early for my 11-somthing AM flight tomorrow. I'm too cheap to pay for a night in a hotel at this point. The Republic of Ireland is very expensive, but I splurged last night and spent the night in Newry at a real B & B and it was lovely. Met a very nice lady who worked her whole life as a midwife in Newry. Fascinating.

Gotta run before the clock runs out and the machine cuts me off. Having fun on the cheap but ready to make my way home. I miss all of you. ALL of you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ireland North and South

Exhausted and working hard at having fun. Seen a lot but not as much as I'd like. It's tought work getting around on public transportation. I have to say that the trains and buses here are fabulous though.

Anything less than a 30 minute walk and they recommend that you walk it though. So I've been walking with about 50 pounds of luggage behind me. Phew. Tiring.

Have seen Dublin (tourist trap) have seen Belfast (nicer and much more friendly), and am now headed to Newry with the hope of getting a B & B tonight. Have been youth hosteling it and am not ready to sleep, sleep, sleep.

Must run only have a few minutes here for the follow of paying a guy $2 American so the fellow would let me check in. Internet access here is difficult to get if you don't have pounds and all I have is Euros. He thought dollars was a lark.

Having fun. Tired but fun.

Fly back on Sat/Sun. Love you all.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Technology Impaired

OK, tonight is the last post for a week, more than likely. I'm packing like a mad woman for tomorrow's trip to NYC and then tomorrow night on to Ireland. I don't know if I'll get to an internet cafe, or if the hostel I'm staying in will have internet access, so if you see a post, I have access. If you don't, when I get back I'll NEED SLEEP and then I'll post pix.

I promise Gigi, I'm brining you and your mom a clover. Everyone else, that's exactly the kind of souvenir I can afford, so that's likely what you're getting. God bless my daughter for hauling me to the airport at 6AM! She gets yet another star in her heavenly crown.

Right now both cats are asleep on the outfit I plan to wear tomorrow. There's no escaping cat hair! It looks like some is even going to Ireland with me.

I'm excited because by the time I get back, they'll have done the criminal background check on me, they have copies of my driver's license and insurance, and the person I'm interested in fostering will probably be allowed to come spend some day visits with me. Good Lord but you should see the size and length of the questionnairs and forms I have to complete. It's more than I even thought was possible or necessary. I'm having a kid at 57! (presuming all things come together) Who'd have thought?! (Including me! I never expected to be ambushed by maternal feelings at this point in my life. Wow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Giving Back to My Job

After putting the non-contractual employees on five days of furlough, privatizing the janitorial services, turning the lights off at night (duh!) and all sorts of other money-saving schemes. the school system will still fall about $150K short. So they're asking us contractual employees to donate anything but they're hoping for five days of our time. And, we have to tell them by Friday! One of the staff figured out that if every teacher gave $483 back to the system, they won't have to lay anyone off. Obama money doesn't get here until next fiscal year. So between now and the end of school we have to figure out how to not be sick or off from school because they're not able to spring for any substitute teachers. We're lucky though. Carroll County has laid off 243 employees. So far, attrition is what they are using, and no one (other than the janitorial staff) has been terminated.

State law requires the school budget to be balanced so they have to come up with the moola. They changed the state law about contracts too this year. So they don't have to give us our contracts until May 15th. Wow, that's really pushing things to the last possible moment. Teachers are used to getting contracts by late March or early April. If you're not offered a contract, while school is still in session, you can run around and look for a different job. The new date for contract offers means that teachers won't find out until just about when school is over and won't have much time to locate other employment. This is a nerve-wracking time of the year for teachers.

I prefer to give something back than force someone to be laid off. Tough times everywhere. I'm sure that lots of other places would prefer to have their people give something back rather than have to be forced to lay off non-contractual employees. I do feel the school system is doing the best it can. I'm sorry that there will not be a summer school, or than after school tutoring will be as available, and I hate it for our janitors that they become $6.25/hour employees with no benefits and found out about it on e-mail. Very stressful at work right now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

New Shoes

When you wear ugly orthopaedic shoes like I do, a new pair is a big deal. I got a black pair of Mary Janes today that are slightly less ugly than the average ugly orthopaedic shoe.

So that's the high point of my day.

Hope you and those you love are happy, healthy and have full bellies tonight.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I was searching the townhouse up and down this evening looking for a really OLD scrapbook/picture album. While in the middle of the search, I found a relaly old poem that I wrote back in 1977 or 1978 or so. I think my daughter can enjoy it now while she has:

Helping Hands

Don't play with our records
Don't dial the phone;
Dismanteling the TV
For reasons unknown!

Floating your toys
Inside the commode;
Writing on walls
In your own little code.

Unpotting the plants
Was fun for awhile;
I saw you empty
Those drawers with a smile!

Life is more interesting
Since you came along;
There's never any telling
What next you'll do wrong.

But sweet little smiles
And wet "gooshey" kisses,
Make me glad I'm a Mommy,
Make me glad I'm a Mrs.

Joann Ward

The reference to records in the first stanza are not a reference to papers saved. It's a reference to those round things you put on your stereo and when the arm came down and settled in the grooves of plastic, you got to hear music.

I did find out that my Grandmother was born on October 28th, 1898 and that her name was Elizabeth Marion Clarke McPherson. That "e" on the end of her name was a big deal. I thought she didn't have the "e" but I was wrong. The "e" must be essential. There are about 5 parishes for the Church of Ireland in Newry. I'm hoping when I go there, I can figure out from the parish registers where my mother's sister is buried. She died in 1931 from dyptheria. I'd also like to see if I can go to city hall without it being a HUGE deal, and see if I can get a birth certificate for my mom (and maybe even her sister, Frieda). I honestly don't know where my grandmother was born. That might take more research than I have time for while there.

I thought Jenn would enjoy the poem though. I used to write a fair amount of poems, though I'm sure they're nothing special except they were words from my heart.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Opportunities

I'm taking classes to become a foster parent. It's a little exciting. It's a little scary. It's a little bit anxiety-provoking. But, ultimately if I didn't think it was "right" I wouldn't do it. I can't say much here. I can't post a picture. Everything is all at the very beginning stages, and anything might or might not happen.

I'm inviting a new person into my life. There is a LONG list of things I have to do from getting doctor's statements, the cats checked by the vet, and having my home inspected. And the list goes on and on and on. If it works out, it will be close to or at the end of the school year. It's possible that after I get back from Ireland that I'll be allowed to have this person visit some.

The sun is now shining, Spring is definitely in the air (including lots of pollen). I'm going to get a book, go hold down my chase lounge and take pleasure in getting some vitamin D. I also have some day lillies I need to plant. I got some pink and orange ones the other day at Home Depot. I like Tiger Lillies. It's 68 and sunny. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to get ugly. I'll enjoy what I have of today.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sitter Downer is Tired

We did an assignment on the flags of Europe today, which is to say, it was a less intense day while students learned that red and blue are very popular colors for most flags.

After school I had a meeting to attend, and my sitter downer is done! I have to be back for a follow-up meeting in the morning.

I got an electricity converter yesterday so I'd be able to charge my camera in Ireland. I'm mentally starting to pack my suitcase. And I found out that 13C is about 53. So, it's a little cooler there than here. It's going to be a busy weekend.